RADFORD, VA (June 29, 2016) -- Joey Lane will assure you, Pete Dye River Course of Virginia Tech is not an easy track to play. He just made it look effortless the last two days during stroke-play qualifying at the 103rd VSGA Amateur Championship.
Lane, a rising senior at Virginia Tech and a member at Reston National Golf Course, fired a 1-under 71 Wednesday, his second straight under-par score, to take medalist honors. He’ll be the No. 1 seed in the 32-player match-play portion of the championship, which starts Thursday with round-of-32 matches in the morning and round-of-16 matches in the afternoon.
Lane was the only player in the 132-man field to shoot two under-par rounds, and undoubtedly, his knowledge of his home college course played a huge role. As big of an advantage as playing on his home track is, it’s not the only reason Lane enters match play in prime position. He qualified for the NCAA Franklin Regional as an individual this past spring, and he led the Hokies in scoring average last season. He also advanced to sectional qualifying for the U.S. Open earlier this month.
“I think my short game has gotten a lot better, and I’ve been a lot more solid off the tee,” said Lane, who shot 70-71—141 to finish three strokes ahead of first-round leader Ji Soo Park (1757 GC) and a surging Trey Wren (Cedar Point CC). “I’m not hitting any foul balls, really. I think everything’s gotten a little bit better.”
Though Lane was the best player over two days of stroke play, match play is an entirely different animal. And there are plenty of experienced players in the field of 32 who have made noise in match play before.
One such player is Mark Lawrence Jr. (Hermitage CC), who went 12-1 in four years at the VSGA Junior Match Play Championship and won four matches to reach the championship of last year’s VSGA Amateur at Farmington CC in Charlottesville. He shot a second straight 74 for a two-day 148, putting him in a tie for ninth.
Lawrence, who recently transferred to Virginia Tech after a year at Auburn, said he played a little conservative at times, knowing that he simply needed to make the match-play cut.
“Obviously, it gives you confidence the better the seed you are, but I don’t think anyone’s goal starting this week was to be the medalist,” Lawrence said. “Everyone’s thinking about what they’re going to do once they get to match play. Then you see what happens when you get out there.
“I don’t know. I just like match play. I like playing aggressive. I play aggressive when I play back home. Stroke play, you can’t quite play as aggressive as you can in match play, because if you hit it out of bounds, or something like that, it really affects you. In match play, you give up a hole, it’s all right. You can win it back on the next one.”
The 20-year-old Wren, who will be on scholarship next year at Temple University, made double bogey on his first hole. That misstep seemed to sharpen his focus, and he was on point the rest of the day. Wren went bogey free the rest of the way and made five birdies to post one of two 69s.
Connor Johnson Jr., a 16-year-old rising junior at St. Christopher’s in Richmond and member at the CC of Virginia, shot the other. Johnson began his week on Monday by grinding through a 36-hole U.S. Junior Amateur qualifier at Salisbury CC in Midlothian, where he earned medalist honors by shooting a 2-under 141.
“It’s a huge grind,” he said. “Coming down that 18th, your feet are tired. You’re grinding on every shot. You have to stay mentally focused on every shot. You can’t have a lapse in concentration on any shot out there.”
All three juniors who qualified for the U.S. Junior Am at Salisbury Monday – Johnson, Connor Burgess (Boonsboro CC) and Drew Brockwell (CC at the Highlands) – advanced to match play. Burgess shot the highest first-round score of anyone in the match-play field, but he bounced back from a 79 to shoot 70 on Wednesday and tie for 18th.
Salisbury and River Course feature much different designs, and coming off the long day on Monday, Johnson shot 76 in Radford Tuesday. Johnson made seven birdies Wednesday and shaved seven shots off his Tuesday score to finish alone in fourth.
“This thing is a beast,” Johnson said of River Course. “These last two holes especially … Like 18, it’s probably the hardest hole I’ve ever played.”
Park struggled to a 4-over 76 Wednesday after shooting a 4-under 68 on Tuesday. Tyler Satorius (Reston National GC), Logan Yates (Greene Hills Club) and Scott Shingler (Evergreen CC) tied for fifth at 146. Vincent Nadeau (Spring Creek GC) shot 147 to finish alone in eighth. Nine players tied for ninth at 148.
Eight players battled for the final two match-play spots in a playoff, a group that included past champion Keith Decker (Chatmoss CC) and past finalist Buck Brittain (The Virginian GC). Brittain and Nick Brediger (Hidden Valley CC) made par on the par-4 10th hole in the playoff, and that was enough to advance. Brediger, a rising senior at Radford, will face Lane in a clash of New River Valley collegians in the round of 32 Thursday.
View results for Virginia Amateur Golf Championship